Tuesday, February 19, 2008

One Hundred Movies!!! (11-20)

Wow! Eighty movies down, and only twenty remain in my roster of One Hundred Movies That Only A Patriots Fan Could Hate. Which films shall be listed next! The tension! The anticipation! The blogger trying to fill up space at the top of his post!

20. Apollo 13

I've probably made this point before, but it's my blog and I can make the point again if I want to. I think of my corporate life and every lame meeting I ever attended in which some HR guru or consultant or motivational-speaker-for-hire waxed poetic about teamwork and then made us all play unimaginably stupid games designed to "force" us to act as teams so we'd have some kind of epiphany about teamwork ourselves and all that rot, and I realize that Apollo 13 is a more effective illustration of teamwork than any management "Yay Team!" meeting ever held. Seriously; instead of a meeting, managers should just have everybody watch this movie. It's a virtual primer on teamwork, with people working together without ever whining or questioning it or worrying about goofy turf battles because the job still has to get done or the three astronauts are going to die.

And yeah, it's as exciting and riveting a movie as I've ever seen. I also consider Ed Harris's loss of the Best Supprting Actor Oscar for this movie (to Kevin Spacey for The Usual Suspects, if I recall correctly) the single greatest miscarriage of Oscar justice in Academy Award history.

Signature moment: Any time that Ed Harris is on the screen.

19. Castle in the Sky

Hayao Miyazaki's blend of steampunk and SF and fantasy adventure is loaded with sense of wonder. Here's a movie with giant robots, a hidden city in the clouds, sky pirates, giant airships, a poor boy who dreams of following his father's footsteps, a girl with a mysterious heritage and destiny, and dastardly villains. It's also full of stunning visuals, as Miyazaki films always are. And that amazing score by Joe Hisaishi. Many rankings of Miyazaki's films hold his later works to be greater, and perhaps they are, but this one is particularly near and dear to my heart.

Signature moment: The landing on Laputa.

18. As Good As It Gets

The romantic pairing in this movie seems odder and odder, the more I consider it: Jack Nicholson's uber-curmudgeon Melvin falls for Helen Hunt's down-on-her-luck Manhattan waitress Carol. When I first saw the movie, after the ending I wondered how long they could have possibly made it as a couple; but seeing it again a year or two later, I realized that a good deal of Melvin's crusty act is just that: an act he puts on to keep himself from forming attachments he's afraid to form. And besides, the movie is hilarious and full of terrific dialog.

Signature moment: I like how the movie flouts a lot of romantic comedy tropes. At one point, having had a fight with Carol, Melvin puts a mix-CD of love songs he's made into the CD player in hopes of thawing her out a bit. A lesser romantic comedy would have this gambit work; in this movie, however, Carol lets the music get to about to seventh or eighth bar before ordering Melvin to shut it off. I love that.

17. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Again, I've written a lot about this movie (look to the sidebar for details), and I'll be virtually retooling it in the "Fixing the Prequels" series, so I won't say a whole lot here. Suffice it to say that I continue to be flummoxed by the sheer amount of loathing directed at the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy. I watch this movie and enjoy the hell out of it every time I do. What does everybody else see that I don't? (or more to the point, why doesn't everybody else see what I see?)

Signature moment: Obi Wan Kenobi, Jedi Detective on Kamino. I love every one of those scenes.

16. The American President

Ahhhh, the days when Aaron Sorkin could do no wrong! How well I remember them. (Although I have heard good things about Charlie Wilson's War, so it could be that Studio 60 was an aberration.) Michael Douglas as Andrew Shepard, the widower President of the United States who falls in love with lobbyist Sidney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening). It sets the tone that would later serve Sorkin so well on The West Wing. It's just a great, great movie.

Signature moment: When President Shepard finally manages to give Sidney a bouquet of roses, she asks him how he got them for her (an earlier scene had him trying to order flowers himself and screwing it up), and he replies, "It turns out I've got a Rose Garden." Ahhh, the days when Aaron Sorkin could give his characters good lines as opposed to having them recite speeches at one another!

15. Love, Actually

According to my list as compiled, this turns out to be my favorite romantic comedy of all time. Fancy that. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but I do unabashedly love it. I love its structure, in which it tells a bunch of separate love stories that are intertwined amongst a circle of characters who are interconnected in a very "six degrees of separation" kind of way. I admire that it doesn't hold to a single definition of "love" for each character, instead having insight to recognize that what constitutes love may not be the same thing from person to person. I also think it's a masterstroke that it doesn't give each one of its mini-love tales a happy ending; one of them is actually pretty downright sad, and another seems to have no ending as such and is clearly a work-in-progress. I probably should flesh these points out in a longer post someday, but for now, Love, Actually always makes me smile and feel happy.

Signature moment: Geez, how to pick one! The movie's one great moment after another. I'll just choose the opening sequence, a montage of people greeting loved ones at the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport as Hugh Grant (who later on turns out to play the British Prime Minister) delivers a wonderful little monologue that manages to include the words of the film's title. It's as good an opening to a movie as I can recall.

14. Titanic

I swear, as long as I live I will never understand the ferocity of the backlash against this movie. One is more likely to get someone to admit to liking the flavor of braised puppy in dolphin sauce than to liking Titanic. Sure, some of the dialog is clunky, but it's not that clunky; sure, the love story is fairly corny, but it's no more corny than any other romance flick; in fact, I think it's probably less corny than most these days. And of course, there's that magnificent ship, steaming full-ahead toward its grim fate. I think the movie holds up just fine. So there.

Signature moment: The sketching of the portrait. It's a great scene because of that wonderful solo piano rendition of the love theme that underscores the sequence. Oh, and because Kate Winslet's nude.

13. Peter Pan

This is my all-time favorite Disney movie. Maybe it's the pirate angle; maybe it's the magic of the flying sequence. Yes, the telling of J.M. Barrie's Pan story is sanitized a bit, but it's still full of magic and excitement. The story's notion that being an adult with no real memory of childhood is in no way preferable to remaining a child forever is a pretty sophisticated moral.

Signature moment: "You Can Fly".

12. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

The best of the Prequel Trilogy (and a pox on the house of the first commenter to mutter, "That's not saying much"). For more on why I think so, see the review of the movie linked in the sidebar. I found the movie powerful, emotional, exciting, and a worthy conclusion to the cinematic Star Wars experience.

Signature moment: The Battle of the Heroes.

11. The Sea Hawk

Errol Flynn at the height of his powers as Captain Geoffrey Thorpe, one of the "Sea Hawks", a group of privateer ship captains who pirated Spanish vessels as the threat of the Armada became more and more clear. I know that The Adventures of Robin Hood is the duly-admitted classic in the canon, but this film us actually closer to my heart. I still remember the first time I saw it: I was ten years old, in fifth grade, when Channel 7 in Buffalo ran it one Saturday afternoon, back in the days when one could catch up on one's old-movie-watching via regular old teevee stations. I even remember the movie snack that day: a can of Planter's Cheese Balls. (Hey, whatever happened to Planters Cheese Balls?) Anyway, all this movie needs, frankly, is a more charismatic villain.

Signature moment: "Strike for the shores of Dover!"

And there we are. Next time, we'll wrap it all up with the Top Ten. Won't that be exciting! It's not every day that you get to see a series of blog posts limp to a conclusion, is it?


Jason said...

Huzzah! Someone else who likes Titanic and isn't afraid to let others know it! Preach it, brother!

Roger Owen Green said...

On the same list: 2 of my favorite and one of my least favorite movies. The former: American President, just because, but especially Apollo 13, the strength of which is when the landing takes place and there's no communication, you fear the worst EVEN THOUGH YOU KNOW it turns out OK. Now THAT'S movie making.

As Good As It Gets: Jack being Jack, and I mean that in a bad way. Irritated the crap out of me, although I did like Kinnear.

Tosy And Cosh said...

The backlash against Titanic is the result of the confluence of two things: the fact that it did monster, monster business (if it appealed to THAT many people it must be crap), and the fact that teenaged and pre-teen girls went apeshit over it - and you KNOW how stupid they are. All hogwash, of course - it's a nearly perfect big, operatic melodrama.

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